Breaking news: Dudamel quits

Breaking news: Dudamel quits


norman lebrecht

March 01, 2010

One of the worst-kept secrets in the conducting world is out this morning with a press release confirming that Gustavo Dudamel has dumped his mentors.

Here’s the full story. Late last year, Dudamel’s agent Mark Newbanks became unsettled with his lack of personal advancement at Holt Askonas, an old-fashioned British agency, and arranged to join his former colleague Stephen Wright, who had bought out Van Walsum Management.

The pin-stripes at Holt Askonas went into damage-limitation, imposing vows of silence on all and sundry and wheeling out Dudamel’s closest advisers – led by Sir Simon Rattle – to persuade the young whizzkid to stay with the stable that launched him. The Dude, music director at the Los Angeles Phil and in demand the world over, is worth some $300,000 to his management over the next 3-4 contract years, say insiders. That’s big money in classical music, and big worries for Askonas Holt.

Rattle did his best at bending the Dude’s ear, and so did other Holt trusties, badgering the young conductor to stay put. But the Dude is a man of personal loyalties and Mark Newbanks is both close to his own age and a good buddy. This morning, Askonas Holt admitted defeat and announced ‘a significant change at the company’ with the loss of its fastes rising star.

Dudamel moves to Van Walsum from today and the Rattle shop is left licking its wounds. Askonas Holt publishes a list of ‘lengenday figures’ and ‘fantastic … young conductors’ whom it maintains under contract. But the Dude’s move is seismic, signifiying a shift in power in classical management.

Wright, who started out himself at Askonas Holt, has scores to settle with former allies and an expansion plans in mind. His new business partner is Costa Pilavachi, former head of Decca and EMI Classics. The wind of change is picking up.